16th century

Page from Pettistree parish register (SROI: FC104/D1/1).
In 1538 Henry VIII’s Vicar General, Thomas Cromwell, ordered the minister of each parish in England and Wales to keep written records of every baptism, marriage and burial at which he officiated. At first most entries were made on loose sheets of paper, many of which have been lost. In 1597 it was ordered that from 1538 each parish was to keep a book made of parchment. Earlier entries were to be copied into the new books, certainly entries since the accession of Elizabeth I in 1558. As it was not obligatory to go back to 1538, many registers begin in 1558.

In 1558 it was also ordered that a copy of all the events recorded during the past year should be made and sent to the Bishop. These were called Bishops’ Transcripts.

As the Diocesan Record Office, we hold the parish registers for all of Suffolk. The Lothingland Deanery, around Lowestoft, is actually in the Diocese of Norwich so the records are accessed through the Norfolk Record Office.

Parish registers are one of the most important sources for family history. More information and advice about researching for your family history can be found in our Popular Collections section.

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